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Feature Article Medical Alert Programs Enhance Independent Living

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For many aging parents or elderly loved ones, maintaining an independent lifestyle at home is an important goal. Unfortunately, falling, whether from slipping, or a stroke or heart attack, is a major factor that can threaten independent living. 

Of those 65 and older, AARP reports that 90 percent plan to “age in place,” staying in their homes as they age. However, 30 percent who live independently fall at least once a year, according to the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. The risk of falling increases with age.

“It’s not just falling that’s the problem, there are many secondary complications that can develop because of a fall that can lead to hospitalization if someone doesn’t get help right away,” said Carol Hensley, manager of Samaritan’s Lifeline medical alert program. 

For elder adults who want to stay in the home as they age, there are many tools to help them maintain their independence while reassuring worried family members, and a medical alert program is typically an easy first choice.

“One of the greatest benefits to a medical alert program is peace of mind for the family. The kids don’t have to worry if they call Mom and she doesn’t answer. Our subscribers also feel like they have the independence to live their life and help is available if they need it,” said Hensley.

For some active seniors, 65 may seem young to start considering a medical alert program. A conversation can reveal whether your parents have concerns, but there are also risk factors to look for. The same study in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology found that the strongest predictors of a fall were people who had previous falls, urinary incontinence, visual impairment or were using benzodiazepine drugs. 

“What we hate to see is someone who falls and wasn’t prepared,” said Hensley. “That first fall can be hard emotionally because they didn’t see it coming.”

For seniors who know they may fall, the reassurance they can get help when they need it — without the embarrassment of having the fire truck arrive — is very comforting. 

Hensley recommends looking for a program that offers a tiered response system — calling a friend or family member if the subscriber just needs help off the floor, or emergency services if the subscriber is injured. Some programs will also keep a limited amount of medical information on hand, such as allergies, to give to emergency responders in case the subscriber cannot communicate. 

Medical alert program customers used to have to stay close to a base unit in their home that connected to a landline phone in order to call for help if needed. While that simple service is still adequate for some, new features and enhanced services include fall detection, wireless service that connects through a cell phone and even a mobile help button that can be used while out and about. 

“We call it ‘GoSafe’ technology,” said Hensley. “The mobile help button works anywhere it can access AT&T cell towers, and there’s a speaker the customer can use to talk to Lifeline. The device has fall detection and six different types of tracking technology.” 

“A medical alert program no longer means you’re tied to your home,” said Hensley. “There are great options for people who walk and travel, and it can absolutely fit into an active lifestyle.” 

Samaritan’s basic medical alert program starts around $30 a month with a $50 activation charge, however financial assistance is often available for those who need it. 

For more information about Samaritan Lifeline medical alert or medication assistance programs, visit samhealth.org or call 541-812-4703.